With pandas, pies, and puns, small details made this big day exceptional.
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Stephanie and Michael
Stephanie Shaiken, a classically-trained pastry chef, and Michael Assof, a firefighter-paramedic, spent their first date picnicking at Del Mar beach in San Diego. After hours of chatting, snuggling, and eating sandwiches, the date was cut short by unforeseen circumstances but would ultimately prove to be clairvoyant. "We probably would have stayed longer but a wedding was actually about to start where we were sitting!" says the bride of that fateful day. "Maybe that was a sign."
Almost two years later, on Christmas morning, Michael took the first steps to make this first-date prophecy come true. With Michael and her parents clad in matching holiday pajamas, Stephanie opened one of her gifts from Michael: a large box filled with colorful tissue paper. After digging to the bottom, Stephanie saw the iconic robin's egg-blue package. She opened it with shaky hands, but, alas, there was no ring; only a note from Michael that said how he wanted to spend his life with her. When she looked up, there was Michael, down on one knee, ring in hand, where he proceeded to ask a surprised Stephanie to marry him.
A little less than a year later, on December 3, 2016, with help from Emilia McCool of Sweet Emilia Jane, and Stephanie's mother, Debra, the happy couple put on a wedding that showcased the things they love. Joined by 160 loved ones right before sundown at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe in Rancho Santa Fe, California, Stephanie and Michael became husband and wife just 15-minutes away from home.
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Modern Stationery with Edge
Stephanie and Michael's invitations from Alee & Press followed their "modern minimalist with pops of personality" wedding theme by mixing shades of gray and white with icons of hot dogs and coffee cups—all tied together with a fabric sleeve embroidered with "XOXO," one of the couples' wedding themes.
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"This was one of the things my mom and I were most looking forward to putting together," Stephanie says of the welcome bags, which included a bottle of wine, a schedule for the weekend, and a door knocker that said, "Please do not disturb, we were Shaiken our Assof at Stephanie and Michael's wedding"—another pun the bride couldn't resist making using their last names.
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Stephanie couldn't find hangers that matched the aesthetic of the day, so she made her own. Putting her crafting skills to good use, she stamped each bridesmaid's and groomsman's name in leather and attached the tags as a personal touch.
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"I never wear robes and I know most of [my] bridesmaids had received plenty of bridesmaid robes recently," Stephanie says. Instead, the bride gifted them gray cashmere cardigans—which doubled as brunch-wear the next day—and black slips to wear before changing into their Joanna August gowns.
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His & Her Attire
For the first look and reception, the bride wore a strapless silk crepe plunge-neck Reem Acra wedding dress. "Although I absolutely adored the Reem Acra dress, I had some hesitations about walking down the aisle in something so daring," Stephanie says, so she changed into a strapless, draped taffeta ball gown by Blush by Hayley Paige. "It felt good to wear something a little more traditional and have that fairytale moment," she says of her ceremony dress. The groom was decked head-to-toe in Hugo Boss, excluding a tie clip gifted by a groomsman.
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30th Time's the Charm
"I bought and returned no less than 30 pairs trying to find the right pair!" the bride says of her shoe search. She ultimately decided on pink lace-up sandals from Madewell, both a versatile, summer-y, post-wedding option and a nod to two of her bridesmaids, whom the bride met while working at the store.
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Stephanie and her father shared an emotional first look, tears and compliments included. "He told me I looked beautiful and that all he wanted for Michael and I was to be happy and how proud he was of me," she says. They later walked down the aisle together to "Falling Slowly" by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. "My dad would text me in the months leading up to the wedding and say, 'I just listened to the song again, it's so good!" Stephanie says. "I cried tears of joy all the way down the aisle, and I'm pretty sure he did too."
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In lieu of paper programs, the couple asked their invitation designer to make a poster outlining the ceremony and wedding party, making sure to include the most important member: Huntley the dog.
The ceremony setup included baskets holding blankets for guests to grab and use to stay cozy during the service. Heel protectors were also on hand to help the ladies walk across the grass with ease. Later in the evening, the station held ballet flats so the women could kick off those shoes and let loose on the dance floor.
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Huntley, the couples' beloved Bearded Collie, walked down the aisle as part of the wedding party, but made a few stops along the way to say "hi" to the guests. "I loved that our dog was there," Michael says of the ceremony, his favorite part of the day. Stephanie also counts that part of the celebration as a memorable moment, noting, "I got to look down the aisle and see Michael so happy and my heart was so full. It was incredible to feel all those people gathered to shower you with love."
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The Secret Garden
"We looked at a few other venues prior to choosing the Inn, but when we visited it was really a Goldilocks 'just right' kind of situation," Stephanie says of the venue. The ceremony was held on the Azalea lawn, tucked away from the rest of the property. Wrapped in her father's tallis, the bride and groom stood underneath a flower-adorned chuppah and Stephanie's grandparents' tallises. The ceremony—co-officiated by Bill Barnes, a friend of the Shaiken family, and Michael's cousin Joey—combined Stephanie's Jewish background and Michael's Christian roots. Stephanie's mom read a Jewish prayer for special and joyous occasions, and the couple wrote their own vows.
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Stephanie and Michael made their first steps as husband and wife to "All You Need Is Love" by The Beatles.
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A Pennant for Your Thoughts
During the recessional, the guests waved around pennants by ThreePotatoFour emblazoned with fun phrases like "yay" ("because I'm super cheesy," according to the bride) and "love, love, love" to match the recessional song.
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A Moment with Mom
Michael's mom, Leslie, also dazzled in a shirtwaist style dress and red specs. She too got in on the wedding planning action, by crafting a copper structure to hold pretzels during cocktail hour.
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The Escort Cards
A bridesmaid penned the names on the escort cards in a modern handwritten style, as Stephanie had a strict "no calligraphy" rule for her wedding.
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All in The Details
Guests enjoyed a tented reception on the front lawn, safely away from the crisp California winter chill. Tables were set with a light gray table runner, candles, and laser-engraved leather place cards, with comfort-food stylings like chicken pot pie and chipotle meatloaf for dinner.
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While planning the celebration, Stephanie (who runs a pastry business called Crust by Stephanie Jayne) swore she wouldn't make the desserts for her own wedding. But when guests asked if her famous apple pie would make an appearance, she caved. "Those pies are a big part of me," Stephanie says. "It was my first apple pie that made me realize I should go to pastry school." The napkins, designed by the bride on Foryourparty.com, reflected her two biggest life passions—pies and puns. Another napkin read "I only have pies for you."
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The pies Stephanie made (including one topped with a traditional bride and groom figurine) were displayed on a bar, with a custom backdrop designed to resemble a bakery. "If I had a bakery in the real world, that is what it would look like," explains the bride.
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For the reception, Stephanie decided to incorporate another love of hers that starts with the letter "P": pandas. From a panda-themed photobooth with panda ears, panda beach balls, and fake bamboo in the background to panda heads, it was pure panda-monium once the guests—including the groom—took the photobooth accessories to the dance floor.
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Although the couple took dance lessons in preparation for their first dance to "L-O-V-E" by Nat King Cole, they threw away their inhibitions and ended up winging it. The pair managed to incorporate some of their newly-learned turns and nailed the dip.
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Photography, Katherine Ann Rose and Luke Griffin of Max & Friends
Location and Catering, The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe
Event Planning, Sweet Emilia Jane
Flowers, Shindig Chic
Videography, Wade, from Shark Pig
Stationery, Alee & Press
Cake and Pies, Crust by Stephanie Jayne
Music, Dart Collective
Rentals, Adore Folklore
Groom's attire, Hugo Boss
Hair and Makeup, 10.11 Makeup
Bridal Stylist, Maradee Wahl